The Magazine

Obama's Pooh-bah

A childish foreign policy.

Jun 30, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 40 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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"Winnie-the-Pooh seems to me to be a fundamental text on national security."

--former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, one of Barack Obama's key foreign policy advisers, June 11

The gathering of oh-so-sober pro-Obama foreign policy experts was drowning in solemnity and earnestness. Speaker after speaker had laboriously dilated on the important distinction--unappreciated by the oh-so-stupid-and-bad Bush administration--between soft power and hard power. And this is to say nothing of the synthesis of soft and hard in ... smart power!

Richard Danzig, the luncheon speaker, hoped to wake the slumberers from their torpor. So he took A.A. Milne rather than Joseph Nye as his fundamental text. As the basis of his criticism of the Bush administration, he read the famous opening sentences of Winnie-the-Pooh:

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming down stairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping a minute and think about it.

The earnest Washington foreign policy types were dazzled by Danzig's daringly outside-the-box citation. How clever! And how true! If only Bush had stopped to think that there was "another way" to pursue our national security goals, rather than staying the course in Iraq, or detaining terrorists without habeas corpus at home. Alas! And really, isn't Bush also "a Bear of Very Little Brain"?

Or is he? Richard Danzig is an intelligent and well-read man. He's a graduate of Bronx High School of Science and Reed College, with a law degree from Yale and a Ph.D. from Oxford. He was a Supreme Court law clerk. He is well aware that, outside the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, al Qaeda has failed to launch successful attacks on Americans since 9/11. Couldn't Bush have been doing something right?

Indeed, Danzig served as Bill Clinton's secretary of the Navy from November 1998 to the end of that administration. During that time the U.S.S. Cole was attacked by al Qaeda, with 17 sailors killed and 39 wounded. So Danzig saw firsthand the insufficiency of the Clinton administration's efforts to prosecute the war on terror through the criminal justice system.

He therefore must know how foolish it is to say, as Barack Obama did last week, "I have confidence that our system of justice is strong enough to deal with terrorists." The lesson of the Cole, as of 9/11, was that "our system of justice" can't deal with terrorists as well as our military and intelligence services. And he must know that there really isn't a pain-free way to fight the war on terror very different from the way the Bush administration has chosen.

"TiggerPooh.jpg"Photo Illustrations by arewelumberjacks.blogspot.com; Hat Tip: michellemalkin.com.

As for the war in Iraq, well ... there Bush did find another way. In January 2007, he changed commanders and strategy. The new strategy, backed by a surge of troops, worked. Violence is way down, political reconciliation is proceeding, the additional troops are almost all back home--and progress has exceeded the hopes even of those who strongly supported the surge. Danzig is well aware that Obama's stated policy would snatch defeat in Iraq out of the jaws of victory.

But he's ostensibly an Obama adviser. What's the man to do? First proclaim the indispensability of Winnie-the-Pooh as a text on national security, in order subtly to indicate how childish Obama's foreign policy is. Second, quote the first paragraph of the book--but do so incompletely. Here's the sentence that follows the passage Danzig quoted: "And then he feels that perhaps there isn't [another way]."

In other words: What Danzig is indicating, by his quotation, and his purposeful and suggestive omission of the very next sentence, is that there isn't another way than Bush's. Richard Danzig is said to be a leading candidate to be national security adviser if Obama should win. How selfless and patriotic of him to indicate to discerning listeners why Obama shouldn't become president!

--William Kristol